Earlier this week, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and Sandy Creek Energy Associates filed a consent decree with a federal court settling legal challenges to the Sandy Creek Energy Station near Riesel, TX. Although the U.S. Court of Appeals had previously ruled in favor of Sierra Club’s and Public Citizen’s lawsuit against this proposed plant for Clean Air Act violations, construction of the Sandy Creek Energy Station is mostly complete. The proposed consent decree requires Sandy Creek to slash its emissions of toxic mercury and particle pollution from this plant and make significant clean energy investments in the local community.
Jen Powis, Campaign Representative with Sierra Club, said, “With this settlement, Sierra Club and Public Citizen were able to secure more than $400,000 for solar generation around the Riesel community, creating clean energy jobs and boosting the state’s solar capacity. This settlement also achieves a significant reduction in pollution, which benefits Texans and our neighbors.”
Specifically, the settlement requires Sandy Creek to lower its pollution levels and reduce the impact this plant will have on Texas’ already severe air quality problems.
“The federal courts found that we were right on the law,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director of the Texas office of Public Citizen, “but the plant is now almost complete, so emission reductions and solar on school rooftops are a good compromise that will both reduce pollution and help bolster reserve capacity for next summer. This would not have occurred if the citizens in the area had not gotten together to oppose the plant as it was originally proposed.”
The clean energy investments required by this settlement include a proposed solar panel installation at the nearby school. Kent Reynolds, the Superintendent of the Hallsburg Independent School District said, “Hallsburg ISD is very fortunate to be the beneficiary of a settlement allowing Hallsburg School to install solar panels on our facility for electricity production that will directly benefit the district. The savings on electricity realized by this project will allow the school to spend that money on the over-all instructional program for the students.”
“This is a great settlement for our community and our schools,” said Robert Cervenka, co-chair of the local organization, Texans Protecting Our Water Environment and Resources (TPOWER). “As a result of our efforts, this new settlement will reduce emissions of mercury by 50 percent and particle emissions by another 25 percent. This in addition to significant reductions we had already achieved as a result of citizens standing up for their rights, with the added bonus of a solar system being built on one of our local schools. This just shows the power of people in a community working together to maintain the quality of life we moved here for and I’d like to thank everyone for all the help.”
Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and other public health and environmental groups continue to fight Texas’ other proposed coal plants in court and with grassroots pressure. Renewable energy, especially wind power, continues to demonstrate its reliability and affordability across the state.